supplementary information to submission to Adoption Act Review


It has been brought to my attention that a position we took in our paper may be used to increase adoptions through surrogacy, and that was not our intention.  I would like to add further information.

This is in regards to the answer we gave under the point of same sex and single sex parents.   We included a paragraph about surrogacy, which we now believe should be treated separately to the Adoption Act.  What we said about same sex and single sex relations in paragraphs 1 and 2 remain our position.

In paragraph 3 we said ‘We assume ‘adoption’ laws will be needed to give these children some identifying information, even if it is false’ (pg.9 of our original submission). I now believe this assumption is wrong and shortsighted.

We do not support adoptions. Nor do we support surrogacy.

  • There is enough evidence of the damage done to babies by separating them from their mothers at the time of birth. This must not be allowed to continue.
  • There is also evidence from the Forced Adoption era that secrecy and false documentation does not allow an adoptee to construct their full identity.
  • There is also further evidence that people wishing to create families with other people’s children do not necessarily make good adoptive parents. Rickarby – a child psychiatrist suggested that in the best interests of the child the child should go to ‘proven’ parents – i.e. those who already have children. He describes the pathology he found in adoptive parents, and I have included an extract of an article of his together with the reference to the complete article.

We understand there is a lobby of gay parents wanting children they have commissioned through surrogacy arrangements to be legitimized through adoption. We know that surrogacy is not limited to same sex parents and includes heterosexuals, celebrity couples and single people with enough money – and an attachment to the market mechanism that encourages them to believe they can have whatever they can afford to buy. Some of these other groups may also be lobbying.

Our concern is that the children of these surrogate parents be able to get some form of legal identity as Australian citizens that does not deny their origins. However, to enable this through adoptions would be wrong. The surrogates have never been assessed as suitable adopters, and they admit they have acted illegally to procure babies.

Surrogacy should remain outside the Adoption Act. The commissioning parents should be referred to as the ‘surrogate parents’. The child will always have a gestational relationship with its birth mother and ancestral lines through its DNA. Perhaps there needs to be a ‘Surrogacy Act’ or ‘Children Trafficked via Surrogacy Citizenship Act’ to give legitimacy to the child’s identity, but not to the parents who have acted illegally and immorally considering evidence of the damage done by separating mothers and babies at birth, and the fact this is a modern form of slavery where rich people can exploit the use of the bodies of poor women.

Sofie Gregory


Submission by G.A.Rickarby MB BS FRANZCP Member.of the Faculty of Child Psychiatry RANZCP MANZAP Consultant Psychiatrist.

Point of View of this submission (as well, this section deals with an aspect of promotion of adoption used in taking of consents, and the sexual myths about mothers used during coercion to take consent)

The author graduated in medicine from Melbourne University in 1956. After commencing training in Psychiatry in London, I arrived in New South Wales in late 1971 to take up a position as Senior Medical Officer at Rydalmere Psychiatric Hospital in the first week. Of 1972 and, while in this position, to complete my training in Psychiatry in New South Wales where I became a Psychiatrist in 1974.

In 1976 I returned to practice Child Psychiatry as NSW Health Department’s Child Psychiatrist for Inner Western Suburbs of Sydney until I moved to Newcastle in 1978 for family reasons and took up the corresponding position there, still flying to Sydney one day a week to continue my Sydney responsibilities until I was able to be relieved in 1983.

I had a wider role in that I flew to Narooma monthly and later to Dubbo to conduct supervision and clinics. I was the first psychiatrist to be Consultant to The Adolescent Unit at Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children Camperdown.

In 1986 I became Child Psychiatrist for the Central Coast and was based at Gosford Hospital until 1989 when I went into semi retirement, still keeping Visiting Consultancies in Newcastle and Gosford. I am now in part-time Private Practice and sit on the Mental Health Review Tribunal where, because of an administrative change, I am again to be an employee of The New South Wales Health Department from 1st July this year.

I was sensitised to the problems of mothers who had lost babies to adoption early in my medical career when a young couple whose later children I delivered, spent much of their family resources (both money and emotions) searching for their first baby who had been adopted-out against their will during their teen years. Their grief was profound and drove their preoccupations and behaviour, particularly as they saved money for expensive private detectives who provided little help.

At Rydalmere I was concerned at the number of late adolescents and young adults who were requiring management for identity disorders and depression, and where there had been major dysfunction due to disturbances in an adoptive family.

In 1974 I was giving a lecture about preventable psychiatric morbidity to a large group of nurses about the possibility of using proven experienced parents as adoptive parents, when I received a hostile response. I was told that these babies were the “right” of those who could not have children of their own, and people who were not wholly behind this were a danger to the people who would never have another opportunity of having children.

From then on I took a much closer interest In the cultural prescriptions driving adoption practices in New South Wales, ironically at a stage when it was undergoing radical change due to the social renaissance that occurred after 1972.

Taking the Child Psychiatry role for the Inner Western Suburbs of Sydney Burwood, Strathfield, Drummoyne, Ashfield and Croydon in 1976, l was to find that adoptive families were a frequent source of referal. (I put the issue in here as it is pivotal to one illegal practice in the taking of consents of birth parents: that is to idealize adoptive families as necessary and desirable for babies, and to use such images repetitively in promoting adoption to the potential provider of the baby).

The long line of mentally ill, substance addicted, maritally divided couples (over both adoption and other issues), who hadn’t grieved their own or their mates sterility whom I saw in trouble during child rearing crises when they didn’t have the resources or will to see them through, disabused me of this notion very quickly. My colleagues and I wrote about this after waiting to take a future sample: Adoptive Families in Distress. (the heavily edited version).

I looked around at the adoptive families I knew socially, and there were similar themes occurring there too, partly because the adoptive family had no training in dealing with the inevitable identity disorder of the adoptive child, because, once the adoption was confirmed, they were left to do whatever they would, with no help or guidance about the special difficulties. The cultural myth was that it would be “just like having your own children”.

Adoptive parents were given misinformation, in that there was a cultural expectation that the baby would match the family because of a skilled selection of babies, and that affluence and religion based upbringing would override other difficulties.

Adoptive parents were given no help with hard testing behaviours in primary school age, with temperamental issues that might have been expected in the biological family, or differences in style of thinking and problem solving that were inate. They were not helped with their own grief, or their deeper feelings about bringing up somebody else’s child except for the myths around the “abandoning” mother implying to the child that he or she was was much better off with them.

Overall I have seen more adoptive parents for this variety of help than I have seen relinquishing mothers.

So not only were the young mothers subject to promotion of adoption, but the promotion was in a large number of instances an outright lie, and when there were capable people adopting, they had to deal with a child different in temperament and cognitive style from themselves through an intense identity crisis, not to mention the early damage to a baby who is born into a vacuum figuratively speaking, as there is no mother to hold and suckle, her noises have gone suddenly and there is no breast smell on which to imprint – many consider this separation as primarily damaging.

When, as well as the inherent misfit, the adoption was associated with frank psychiatric illness in the adoptive family at the time of adoption, or later sexual abuse, it was difficult for Child Health professionals not to become both distressed and angry. Once the Department of Community Services signed them off and The Department of Health was distracted from other duties caring for them.

The author wrote Family Psychiatry and the Selection of Adoptive Parents published in the Australian Journal of Social Work and it was used widely, but it was closing the gate after the horses. The Dept of Community Services (about 198O) started using me when they thought that refusals of adoptive parents might be challenged in Court (they hadn’t succeeded in stopping anybody determined before that). I was prepared to give evidence for them.

The people I met were mostly frankly mentally ill. (I heard the argument that the mentally ill, should not be discriminated against as far as adopting children was concerned)

It is important to discuss, at this stage another myth that was used cruelly against original mothers. In 1997 I was disgusted to hear it still promulgated on a television show by a social worker who had worked in Crown St Hospital during the single mother’s holocaust from 1966 to about 1973.

What she said was that the young mother could not readily go to Court to seek support from the father because a man taken there would have half a dozen others to say it could be them just as easily, or words to that effect. This was the myth that the young woman was prematurely sexualised, promiscuous and irresponsible. This myth was widespread and a source of creating a bad role for the pregnant single girl, particularly the teenager.

Having seen a large number of relinquishing mothers by the nineties, there were many instances of first intercourse, (some of it rape), some of seminal spills in the vulva, but most numerous were those of the first boy friend and profound ignorance about sex and contraception.

On the other hand the statistics will show that there was a virtual epidemic of sterility due to what was called Non-specific oophorosalpingitis (inflamation of the tubes and ovaries – and by non-specific they meant it wasn’t due to gonorrhoea or syphilis but was later found to be due to the Chlamydia organism spread venereally. The use of high dosage contraceptive pills (the original ones used in the sixties and early seventies) were also a significant cause of sterility when premature menopause occurred.

The tragedy for the original mothers was that they were younger, and this false myth about their sexuality used by those who wished to take their consent, was to render them more powerless, guilty or shamed, and as a frank lever to humiliate them. Their seeking secrecy for their sexual involvement made consent taking easier.

It is important that this section is not seen as an excuse for the flagrant flaunting of the 1965 Act by the behaviour and decisions of those empowered in institutions of public trust, or of cruel and unethical behaviour of Dickensian proportions visited upon young women in helpless circumstances.

Inability to have Children

As already indicated, there were particulars leading to a large number of couples who were unable to have children. Effects of early contraceptives and Chlamydia infections have been already mentioned. The public were not as ready to come forward to have any venereal infection treated, ectopic pregnancy was common, and there was an extraordinary rate of premature hystorectomy performed in Australia that astounded medical statisticians in other countries.

There were some causes in males such as infective disease of the genital tract which caused male sterility, again the the public would shun treatment, however there was little that could be done about mumps orchitis in childhood or adolescence. There were many instances where nothing could be found or where there were low sperm counts of unknown cause.

In the front line in managing adoptive families however, child psychiatry clinicians were aware of many couples who had marital and sexual difficulties, who led oppositional and divergent lives where the intercourse frequency was very low or absent. This type of ailing marriage where the couple were bound together in a hostile insecure situation is not to be confused with the unconsummated marriage which was also encountered. Here the couple often had a strong loving bond, but had difficulties related to having intercourse so well described in Michael Balint’s book Virgin Wives.

The Difference in Social Power

The group of people who wanted babies (other women’s) contained a large proportion from the middle class, as a result of both being employed, having property and other assets, as well as social affiliations and status.

In this culture respectability was highly valued. In dealing with adoption agencies after 1965, these couples often related to the agency with a strong public display of praise and gratitude, and the agencies would have photographs of happy adoptive families with cards, and a sense that they had personal ties with many adoptive families as a result.

Many agencies such as the Catholic hostel for unmarried mothers at Waitara had specially selected adoptive parents come to talk to the mothers about the benefits of adoption. Many such families adopted two to four children.

The relationship had a personal element to them and there was a sense of reciprocity experienced by the workers in agencies, antenatal hostels and maternity hospitals. The overall myth promulgated was “Isn’t it wonderful we can find such loving homes for the unwanted babies”. For those with an angry adolescent adoptee in psychotherapy, this was black humor indeed.

About sofie gregory

I'm an adoptee; co-founder of the group IdentityRites - peer support and advocacy for adoptees.
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3 Responses to supplementary information to submission to Adoption Act Review

  1. kimcoull says:

    Reblogged this on Kim Coull and commented:
    Sofia has also written a supplement to her Charter with some important amendments and explanation to the original about adoption and surrogacy.

  2. flrpwll says:

    This probably isn’t the place for it, but you might be able to point me in the right direction.

    Families SA is taking a child (2 1/2 months old) away from his 18 year old mother; they claim she will be unable to emotionally support him, as she was bought up in the foster system, they also claim the child is “at risk” because he is being fed on demand instead of to a schedule.

    Are Families SA attempting a new, sneaky, way of providing infants for “deserving married couples”? We all know no-one is going to believe a teen mother is being targeted without cause, so it’s a perfect cover for them.

    What can I do? This is so wrong.

    • She needs to get a solicitor straight away, and show she is going to fight them. I don’t have the qualifications to give advice. But I would think about a couple of things. Consider how much emotional support is available to the mother – I assume you are there for her. It is good if she can show she is well supported by older people/parents. She may also be able to discuss her feeding schedules with her doctor – there are endless variations that many of us have used without harming our children. She may be able to develop a relationship with her doctor and/or a paediatrician who can provide comments to support her. It is completely unreasonable to assume she will not be able to care for her child because she has been in care herself. They will need to have evidence. She will probably need supportive references.

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